The storm before the strategy
One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve ever made was watching the movie Twister. I had been begging my parents to let me see it for weeks and once it made its way to the small screen they went ahead and gave me the green light. Worst idea ever. Thirty minutes into the movie and suddenly the room got darker. I looked outside and there they were, massive storm clouds looming over us. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect (or less perfect really). I was terrified. The storm hit quickly and harshly and next thing I knew, there were enormous pieces of hail falling from the sky. Even my brother was scared, which made me super nervous. What the hell was happening?! I was sure we’d see a cow flying by at any moment.
My brother and I had two different strategies that stormy afternoon. He hid under the covers and I sat right by the window. My mother kept telling me to move because it was dangerous, but I couldn’t look away. Despite being terrified, I had to watch. I needed to know what was happening, even if I didn’t like what I was seeing.
I always refer back to that moment when I think about the way I think. I am an observer. I love to ‘know’ what’s happening. Who, what, where, and why are my favorite words. I love to understand things. I don’t know if it’s a control thing or I’m just a little crazy, but my brain is always seeking to find the answer to something.
This is what makes me a great strategist. I seek to understand. Everything in the world has a story, even something as ordinary as a pencil. Whose pencil is it? Where did it come from? Is it lost or was it stolen? The answers to these questions help define that pencil. They give the pencil a purpose and a direction.
In the process of observing you not only truly start to understand something better, you also notice patterns. You start to realize there is a method to the madness in this world. I put pieces together, I solve problems, and I find what makes something tick. Once you have that down, then you can become an excellent strategist.
An important thing to know is that while a strategy is something you create, it must be created based on the truths of the world. You cannot create a strategy that is solely based on what you think of the situation. That will get you nowhere. For example, if I wanted to create a strategy for selling candy to a child, I wouldn’t just use whatever strategy best suited me or whatever information I wanted to use. I would need to understand the situation. Do children like candy? Who will be the one making the actual purchase of the candy? Should my strategy be geared towards them? Or do children have all the control? Does that differ in each household? Literally, it’s not just like selling candy to a baby.
While that example is very basic, it shows the key to a good strategy. Understanding the situation. In order to do so, you must answer as many questions as possible. I am the queen of questions. I am a listener and a watcher. I break everything down into smaller and smaller pieces until I’m down to the core. My investigation skills are sharp and my desire to know is relentless. I’ve always been this way. Sitting by the window watching the storm. So while my neurotic need for information may seem crazy, I believe it is what ultimately makes me a good strategist.